A ballistic flight from England to Ireland. 50minutes in the air, barely enough time to get the trolley around let alone drink the two bottles of wine the woman beside me buys. We land at Knock International Airport with a runway built to 747 landing standards so the Pope could land to visit the Basilica. Welcome to Knock Airport, gateway to Croagh Patrick, Curach Phádraig, the mountain of Saint Patrick. To the locals, ‘The Reek’.
Car hires collected, turn left off the airport grounds straight onto a single track road with passing places, turn right onto a narrower road with no passing places. Not exactly the easiest airport to access in the country. Eventually we join the N5, and off to the hostel at the base of the mountain. It would be another 40 hours before we’d get a glimpse of the top since it was hidden beneath the clag from the moist air driven up from the Atlantic. With its top less than 1km from the sea, and rising 764m from the coast, Croagh Patrick is notorious for poor weather. With an average gradient of 28 degrees and its steepest section at 44 degrees, this was where we were to be stationed with other mountain rescue teams from across Ireland for the holy day of pilgrimage called Reek Sunday.
Reek Sunday pilgrims follow the path of Irelands patron Saint Patrick, who is said to have walked up the mountain barefoot, to sleep at the top and perform a service at sunrise the next day. No pagan connotations obviously. Pilgrims do the same, walking the mountain, many barefoot, at some point over the last weekend in July. Many make the ascent to attend one of the hourly masses performed at the summit church. Numbers have declined in recent years and long gone are the heydays of Reek Sunday where over 50,000 people could be expected on the mountain.
After a break from travel we made our way to dinner at the local eating pub. Another short trip to the drinking pub, where we were due to meet members of Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team (DWMRT) and a few more local beverages before bed.
Saturday morning, everyone ready, vehicles packed, and off we were to Doo Lough at the base of Ben Bury to train with the DWMRT kit that we would be using for the weekend. Different stretchers, team calls, movement patterns; all had to be worked through so we could function as one on the mountain on Sunday. A few hours working, talking, grunting, pushing and lowering, and it was time for lunch at the local farm shop. Food ordered, chatting with the owner who was stunned that we had come over from Yorkshire, before being told that food was on the house for everyone. We were stunned and appreciated the generosity, each of us leaving a substantial tip to cover part of what we gorged.
Back to the hostel and people’s feet were getting itchy for the mountain. Five of us ditched kit from our bags, stashed our MR branded gear and went for a fast moving hike up the mountain. An hour and twenty minutes later we were on the top. It was sinking in how difficult a mountain this was going to be to perform a rescue off with the constantly moving scree and boulders of the Cone. A poor weather forecast for the day ahead was going to give us a very tough day with high probability of no helicopter cover. Before we descended we were treated to a break in the clouds and the view over Clew Bay. Looking down we realised how arduous a walk this would be for the pilgrims the next day, many of whom you would not class as hill walkers, let alone members of our outdoor community.
Gear was packed away, bags ready for the early morning start, before we drove to Westport for a team meal with CVSRT and DWMRT members. Three courses later, bloated and sleepy we were told to put our money away as the Dublin & Wicklow team were picking up the bill. Again, random acts of kindness were truly appreciated. 9pm, a final kit check, hill food made, bags into the car for a 2am start. Bedtime.
0200 – Up, kit on, toilet stop #1, coffee, second coffee, toast, third coffee, toilet #2.
0230 – In the car, roll from hostel towards Mayo Mountain Rescue Team base a 40 minutes drive away.
0320 – Coffee, stew for breakfast. Unpack team kit and split among all members, pack the rest onto the stretcher with carry strops and wheel attached.
0400 – Leave the base, head up the first part of the Reek, a bog, tussocks, drag kit up.
0455 – Reach the shoulder, head for med tent, 300m vertical height gained, rest for 10mins while waiting for deployment. We know we’re going to the top, DWMRT always get the top.
Pilgrims are already walking to the top in the traditional ascent at night. Some are more ‘worse for wear’ than others, maybe a few too many drinks under their belts!?
0505 – Radio shout to deploy to the top, surprised? …not at all. Thank you sir, may we have another?
0600 – In position 60 minutes earlier than any previous year, worked very well as a team despite the amount of walkers already coming down from the summit. 400m height gained. Very tired now.
0600 – 0730 – Spread across the summit and 100m below the summit. Sat in a group shelter talking with other DWMRT members, occasionally looking out to make sure no one was injured or requiring assistance. Relatively quiet, but constant stream of pilgrims. Likely lads in local football jerseys come past fresh from the nightclub, chanting something unprintable about pilgrimage and penitence.
0736 – Redeployment to the base of the cone…400m below us. We redeploy 200m lower at a known hotspot that wasn’t being covered at the time. Lowering the stretcher on a V-belay with kit in a body-shaped bivvi bag, which raised a few eyebrows and quite a few explanations needed to passers-by. UK accents garner some very confused looks from the locals. The legacy of Cromwell is not forgotten easily in these parts. Local belligerence is amusing to our fellow Irish MRT members.
0800 – 0915 – Group shelters again, out of the fall line while the weather turns grim. Four shelters in a row like a line of giant mutant Skittles. Lots of people now, constant stream of them, very quiet, visibility about 20m at best.
0900 – We get out to stretch our legs. Visibility up to about 40m and we spent some time out watching the parade of silent, focused ‘zombies’ trudge past with the occasional stumble. The odd person takes the faster, safer fell race route down.
0900ish – A fast descending walker takes a fall, lands face first, tumbles a further 20m before coming to a rest. We wait to see if he gets up. He doesn’t. DWMRT member crosses the moraine to him. Arm flag, paramedic crosses. Arm flag, two more over, two more up to stop falling rocks and move people out of the rock trap above. Rest of us strip the stretcher for med kit, and ropes. It’s a definite carry out. We’re on a 40degree gradient with a lot of loose rock above and below us.
0900-0930 – Bleeding stemmed, arm and shoulder splinted, pain care underway. We move across moraine with all team kit, pilgrims are kindly persuaded to move aside so we can get there.
0930-0945 – Patient packaged, medication administered, a lot of screaming, kisu doing well as a visual block. Many people walking over to see what’s occurring, politely asked to move along just in case they may get hit with a rock from above. They only move when we point out their safety.
At some point, the clag started to lift and we heard a helicopter inbound. A Coastguard S92 landed, we made direct contact to find out if we could use it, sadly it was for a casualty with a cardiac that had occurred. We were notified that 5 incidents had occurred within 20mins of each other. ICRO – Irish Cave Rescue, were acting as runners trying to get more kit on the hill where it was needed.
0945-1030 – Moving belay with 10 on a V back rope attached to stretcher with 6 out riggers and one navigator/person herder at the front. Strenuous moving the stretcher down the steep slope with meter high steps where brute force is the only option. Regular stops to check the casualty’s ABCs and reassess what we were planning. Finally, flat ground, wheel stretcher to med tent.
As we arrive at the med tent, we are told we’ve an inbound helicopter from the Air Corps - worried about the head injury the casualty had sustained, immediate air evacuation is advised. Looking back, we see two more teams split and head for a single point high up the hill, a sixth injury. All stretchers are currently occupied. New teams are moving up for shift change and go into action, moving their kit into place having had no rest from the initial movement from the ground level base to the shoulder of the Reek. They get a further 7 injuries in the next 6 hours. Coastguard and Air Corps helicopters provide amazing air support when the weather allows it. We were very lucky that the casualties happened later in the day when the clag lifted.
1035 – Quick team briefing on the helicopter type we have inbound. Military craft we don’t normally deal with. Smoke popped. Heli lands hot and stays hot. Casualty transferred to heli stretcher. Paramedics handover. Load casualty onto heli, downwash directly under rotor is less than a S92, which was not as bad as expected. Casualty is flown direct to Castlebar hospital for urgent medical assistance.
1050 – We end our shift in 10mins. Team debrief from DWMRT paramedic and Team Leader. Repack stretcher to leave the Reek. Radio to control base that we are off-call. General feeling of being a useful member of society prevails in the team. Time to walk off. Pack kit again.
1140 – Get to car, change into dry clothes, eat two bowls of stew and a packet of Fruit Pastels.
1200 – Drive back to airport. Ditch rental car. Check in. Drink a beer. Get on plane. Sleep.
CVSRT Probationary Member
On Saturday 15th July 2017, Mountain Rescue members from the Mid-Pennine Region who are specially trained in water rescues techniques came together at the River Washburn in North Yorkshire to refresh their water rescue skills and to forge a stronger working relationship. Water First Responders and Swift Water Rescue Technicians from Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, Bolton Mountain Rescue Team and Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team gathered in the river flow beneath Woodyard on the river.
It’s worth mentioning that this training was made possible by a kind invitation from Halifax Canoe Club and Yorkshire Water. On limited occasions the river is supplemented from Thruscross Reservoir, providing a guaranteed strong flow of water along the river length into Fewston Reservoir. This in turn provides the perfect opportunity for the canoe club members to enjoy a slalom competition in the upper section, whilst we trained downstream in the lower section of the river.
Throughout the day, team members trained together to practice core water rescue skills required to operate safely around swift water including defensive and aggressive swimming through the flows, throw line rescue and tethered rescue swims to retrieve casualties from the water. The afternoon session included more technical rescue skills training including the tethering and manoeuvring of a rescue craft across the river and into the flow using high lines. Such skills may be called upon to carry out a rescue from a vehicle trapped during a flood.
This training was also part of a developing program to bring together Mountain Rescue water rescue members from across the Mid Pennine Region. All members are trained to the same National Standards for water rescue and from experience during recent major water rescue incidents, i.e. the flooding incident witnessed earlier this year on the East coast, Mountain Rescue water rescue specialists often work together to support the statutory emergency services.
Finally it’s worth remembering that all the equipment seen in these photographs such as the dry suits, water craft, specialist ropes etc. are all funded by generous donations from the public and sponsors from across the region, all supporting their own local Mountain Rescue teams.
We would all like to thank everyone for the continued support for Mountain Rescue teams. This allows us to train and maintain essential skills, ensuring we are prepared to help the public in times of need.
CVSRT Water Lead
At our monthly maintenance evening, CVSRT had the pleasure of welcoming Stacey McGowan and members of the Halifax Ladies Circle to our base in Mytholmroyd.
Some of you may remember that the Halifax Ladies Circle kindly nominated CVSRT as their Charity of the Year last year and did a fantastic job raising funds throughout the year. The ladies kindly popped in to meet the team and present a huge cheque (literally) for an incredible £3178.67.
CVSRT Leader, Ben Carter was on-hand to gratefully accept the generous donation and to thank everyone at Halifax Ladies Circle for their hard work and fundraising.
If you’re looking for a challenge that’s a bit different, here’s an idea...“Bearing Up!” is an adventure in a straight line.
Conceived by CVSRT member Paul Taylor, the concept is simple… to complete a set of wild challenges following difficult lines across the landscape. The challenge is open to anyone with suitable skills and experience and it is hoped that this might ‘bear fruit’ for the benefit of Mountain Rescue in England and Wales and Scotland teams.
For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘bearing’ is the direction or position of something, or the direction of movement, relative to a fixed point. It is usually measured in degrees, typically with magnetic north as zero… although for Paul’s recently successful Skye Cuillin ‘bisection’ adventure, magnetic rocks made the use of a compass inherently rather more unreliable!
Paul explains, “We follow our chosen bearing across challenging terrain, immerse ourselves in open water swims and climb up onto steeper ground in mountainous landscapes around England, Wales and Scotland. All lines include significant elements of wild swimming, scrambling and even roped rock climbing, adhering to a ‘leave no trace’ philosophy, with a target to do each route in one continuous push in a day."
Generally races in the hills and mountains are so often about how far or how fast, or perhaps how many summits you can "tick off" along the way. Bearing Up! is about picking a good line, as straight as possible, to take in a swim, a climb and perhaps a summit. It gives you a different perspective. There may be no path to follow, just keep on the same bearing all the way. The tendency to look for an easier way around a rocky crag or stretch of water is natural, so actually keeping to a straight line is a real challenge.”
CVSRT member Jonothan Wright joined Paul and recently completed a route across Llyn Llydaw and up Lliwedd.
Jonothan explains, “I joined Paul on a bearing of 226º degrees, starting from just west of Pen-y-pass in Snowdonia, leading us on an adventure through Llyn Llydaw and up Lliwedd. It didn’t take long before I started to stray off the line, meandering about it all the time but aiming in the right general direction. We crossed straight over a perfectly good path, to the walkers’ bemusement, and carried on over the rough ground, boulders and through marsh grass. At the water’s edge we switched to wetsuits and float bags to carry our kit and set out across the cool, clear waters, with every breathing head turn glimpsing up at the peaks around us.”
“There was no set time limit or distance to cover but what we did gain was a perspective that was special to us alone. It might have only been a mile or two, as the ‘crow flies’, but topping out and looking back on such a simple route, the sense of satisfaction from having travelled through the landscape was immense.”
Paul has set up a fundraising page, which has already raised over £200. He has more ‘Bearing Up!’ adventures planned over the coming months. He is also looking for individuals, groups or fellow mountain rescue teams to join him to partner up on these challenges or if you are feeling inspired, perhaps plan your own bearing and share your route and experiences.
If you would like to learn more about ‘Bearing Up!’ please visit the Bearing Up! Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/bearingup/
So why not join Azimuth and Zenith, his two Bearing Up! mascot teddies in their A to Z adventures to raise funds for mountain rescue teams!
It’s safe to say that we are blessed with some wonderful scenery around our operational area, and now the summer holidays are in full flow we hope you are making the most of the great outdoors. There are many ways to explore the stunning countryside, and whether you're walking, climbing, running or cycling, the landscape is inspiring, but can also be hazardous. Here are several tips to keep you safe whilst you’re out and about, and before you even set off from home.
Before you start and throughout the day, eat well and remain hydrated to keep your energy levels high.
Carry a map and compass, and have the ability to use them! Plan your route carefully. Consider the time of year, terrain and the nature of your trip and choose your route accordingly. Leave details of your route including start and finish points, estimated time of return and contact details — and leave your note in a reliable place in case of emergency or with family and friends at home.
Carry a headtorch with spare batteries, a whistle to attract attention if you need help and carrying a basic first aid kit and an emergency survival bag/blanket. If you take regular medication, make sure you’ve had it or have it with you to take during the day.
Check the weather forecast. Wear suitable clothing and footwear, and carry extra layers in case you get into difficulty. Keep an eye on the weather whilst you’re out and about. Be prepared to turn back if conditions turn against you, even if this upsets a long-planned adventure. Watch for signs of hypothermia: disorientation, confusion, shivering, tiredness, pale complexion and loss of circulation in hands or toes. Children and older people are especially susceptible.
Keep the party together and allow the slowest in the party to determine the pace and take special care of the youngest, weakest and least knowledgeable in dangerous places. If you go out alone, let people know your route and when you expect to finish and then stick to it as far as you can. If your plans change, let them know that too.
Obviously we want you to enjoy yourselves but staying safe is more important. In the unfortunate event you require urgent medical assistance, alert the authorities immediately.
Dial 999 or 112, ask for Police and then Mountain Rescue. The days of running down the hill to the nearest telephone box to summon help appear to be over - that said, mobile phones are not 100% reliable and batteries can run flat and network coverage cannot be relied upon in the more remote areas.
Before you set out, charge your mobile phone. Many accidents occur towards the end of the day when both you and your phone are low on energy. Register your phone with www.emergencysms.org.uk - an emergency SMS service in the UK that allows you to send a SMS text message to the 999 service (UK) where it will be passed to the police then mountain rescue or ambulance, fire rescue, coastguard.
Be prepared with the following information to aid your rescuers:
• Casualties – Number, names, type of injuries
• Hazards to the rescuers – Swiftwater, rock fall etc.
• Access – Description of the approach terrain and weather conditions
• Location of incident – A grid reference is perfect (please say if this is from a GPS device)
• Equipment – What safety equipment you have with you
• Type of incident – Mountain, crag, moors, etc.
Keep injured/exhausted people safe and warm until help reaches you.
Think!! Most dangers, hazards and incidents can be avoided with the correct preparation, forward thinking and using your common sense!
For more info: www.cvsrt.org.uk
As well as training, fundraising, attending public events and assisting the emergency services with searches and rescues, CVSRT members are often invited along to youth groups and schools to talk about the voluntary work we do within the community and to demonstrate some of the emergency equipment and rapid response vehicles we use. Recently Hove Edge Scout Group kindly invited several team members along to one such event based at Hove Edge Scout Hut.
As you can see from these photos, it was a great evening and the perfect opportunity for the girls and boys from Brighouse with some parents to come along and get hands-on with the stretcher, vacuum mattress and sit in the vehicle. It was also a great opportunity to socialise Trainee Search Dog ‘Orion’ with the group.
Connor Michaels who is Brighouse Scouts District Network Commissioner explained, “Hove Edge Scout Group was saved from closure thanks to the hard work of a small team of volunteers and it’s great to be able to invite teams like CVSRT so the girls and boys can get involved with exciting new experiences. The kids get so much from scouting and clearly are inspired to continue their personal development in later life with organisations such as mountain rescue and CVSRT.”
CVSRT Treasurer, Matt Greaves said, “Quite a few of our team members actually have a scouting background and each year when the team is recruiting we receive a large number of applicants from individuals who have been scouts. We see events like this as planting a seed in the hope that the youngsters wish to progress when they get older, plus it’s a great evening all round.”
For more information about Scouting at Hove Edge Scout Group and other groups in the area please visit: brighousescouts.org.uk
** Statement on the BBC from the young lady who was involved in 50ft car fall on Sunday evening. ** By Nick Wilmshurst, BBC Yorkshire Live Reporter
A woman who had to be rescued after her car rolled down a 50ft ravine near the M62 in West Yorkshire at the weekend says she wants to thank "the amazing people" who rescued her.Rochelle Garner, from Ripponden, West Yorkshire, lost control of her car on Sunday on the A672 near to Junction 22 of the M62 as she was following her partner in the car in front.
She said: "It veered off the road and I didn't hit anything for a little while and then it rolled three times. It was surreal, I couldn't put it into words. "I just wanted to get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible and I was still strapped in. I managed to push the door open and climb out."
Rochelle says her head has been left swollen by the accident, but otherwise she has minor injuries. Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team were called out to help her: "I remember them pulling me up the hill, I was on a stretcher and I was being pulled to the top."
Rochelle was released the same night and says she's still sore, has cuts and bruises, hurt her left leg and suffered dizziness and she's now resting up at home. She says she particularly wants to thank Stephan Gray and Jonathan Stigwood who were first on the scene: I just want to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. I'm not sure if there are any words I could say really. They're all amazing people."
View here: Incident #1028
Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team would like to take this opportunity to thank Rochelle for her kind words and wish her a speedy recovery. CVSRT would also like to thank all the emergency services who were on-scene to assist with the rescue. It was great teamwork from all involved.